After more than 7 years of service in the U.S. Army, Matt Brooks transitioned out of the military via our Operation Level Up Military Career Skills Program. He now works as a Modeling, Simulations, and Analysis Lead at the Sierra Nevada Corporation, where he leads a team responsible for creating digital models and scenarios designed to test the performance of future military aircraft applications.
“The work we’re doing directly influences the design of aircraft that will end up being used by the military, which gives us a strong sense of purpose and desire to succeed,” he said.
Below, read more about Matt’s new career and how the Operation Level Up program helped him launch it.
After your many years of service in the Army, what drew you to software engineering?
Growing up, I was always really interested in computers, and I built a few of my own over the years. In college, I took a few computer science courses that really stood out from my other courses. They were difficult, but I enjoyed the challenge of creating algorithms, systems, and programs to solve a problem. Software engineering is a blend of logical and creative thinking, which kept me feeling engaged and left me with a strong sense of accomplishment. As I began my transition out of the military, I knew I wanted to go into a career field that kept me mentally stimulated and provided constant challenge and growth.
What led you to enroll in the Operation Level Up program specifically?
Operation Level Up stood out to me compared to other coding bootcamps for several reasons. First, it was already an approved Career Skills Program at my installation. Second, they accepted VET TEC funding. Third, they offer many cohorts each year, so I was able to find a cohort that fit nicely into my transition timeline. Fourth, I had overwhelmingly positive interactions with the staff during the application process.
Not only did Operation Level Up provide me with the hard and soft skills needed to be a successful software engineer, but it also provided me with a network of strong relationships with amazing people who will help me grow and succeed. On top of that, I had so much fun learning to code each day of the program!
Congratulations on your role at the Sierra Nevada Corporation! What’s your role there?
I’m currently a Modeling, Simulations, and Analysis Lead. I lead a small team that is responsible for creating digital models and scenarios designed to test the performance of future military aircraft applications. We analyze the resulting performance metrics to help drive both business development as well as engineering design.
What do you like about your role? And what challenges have you faced so far?
I really enjoy working on a small team of great people. The work we’re doing directly influences the design of aircraft that will end up being used by the military, which gives us a strong sense of purpose and desire to succeed. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far is learning to code in a new, proprietary language in a short amount of time. However, the foundational knowledge and skills I learned while in Operation Level Up have enabled me to learn the new language quickly.
What’s your work environment like? Do you work on-site or remotely?
I work mostly on-site in a corporate office environment. However, I do have the flexibility to work remotely when need be. Many team members work fully remote or hybrid, and some work a 4×10 schedule while others work a traditional 5×8. It’s a good balance, and the company allows a lot of latitude for employees to balance their work schedule with other commitments.
How was the post-program job search process for you?
The job search process took me about a month, and I ended up applying to 14 positions before I accepted an offer. I utilized multiple different online job boards, as well as networking with friends and former colleagues. The resume-building help my Career Skills Manager provided was invaluable in helping me create a strong first impression with employers and set me apart from others.
Is there anything from your career in the Army that you’ve been able to carry over into your new career in software engineering?
Most of my intangible, soft skills developed in the military translated over into the civilian world and gave me a leg up over others in the job search. Leadership, teamwork, discipline, and attention to detail are some of the most impactful skills that carried over.
Do you have any advice for incoming students who are about to start Day 1 of the bootcamp?
My biggest piece of advice to new students is to devote as much time and energy to the bootcamp as possible. It should be your number one priority over the next four months. What you get out of the bootcamp is directly correlated to your level of effort, which will then impact how desirable you are to employers, what kind of job you’ll qualify for, and how quickly you’ll be able to secure a job. Also, listen to the instructors and take their advice to heart – they know what they’re talking about!